- Countdown #35 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Keith Giffen, Manuel Garcia & Mark McKenna (DC)
- Ex Machina Masquerade Special by Brian K. Vaughan & John Paul Leon (DC/Wildstorm)
- Manhunter: Origins TPB vol 3, by Marc Andreyko, Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco (DC)
- Hellboy: Darkness Calls # 5 of 6, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
I think Greg Burgas nails it in his review of the Ex Machina special: It’s not a story of any great consequence, and the sentiment driving the plot doesn’t ring true. Plus, I’ve never warmed to John Paul Leon’s pencils, as the renderings aren’t to my taste, and his layouts never seem to really tell the story, they just sit there. The earlier 2-part special, drawn by Chris Sprouse, was much better than this one in every way.
(And why did a Halloween comic come out in late August? Especially strange since we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave here on the west coast.)
Manhunter really hits its stride with this third collection, which focuses on Kate Spencer’s “origins”, both her gear and her personal history. She also continues to battle the dregs of the DC Universe’s array of supervillains (wow, I’d completely forgotten about Punch and Jewelee). I suspect the reason it’s been struggling to gain readers is that it has taken so long to hit its stride; the first twelve issues (that’s a whole year of issues, folks) thrashed around like the series was trying to establish itself rather than trying to finds its voice, which is rather putting the cart before the horse.
Anyway, this series of federal-prosecutor-turned-vigilante stays down-to-Earth, while being strangely conflicted: It deals with some intensely personal issues, yet always seems to keep the characters’ emotions at arm’s length, always being a little too matter-of-fact for its character bits. That we only get brief glimpses of most of the supporting cast doesn’t help. The adventure bits are a lot of fun, though, and present an unusually unglamorous view of superheroing – reasonably enough, since Manhunter is truly a vigilante and not a traditional hero.
Manhunter has been a fan favorite on the Internet for a while. I don’t think it lives up to the hype, but if it truly comes back from its current hiatus then I’ll probably add the monthly book to my saver at my local store.
And now, a slightly different tack: Comments on books I didn’t buy:
I thumbed through the first issue of the new Brit series. Brit is another of Robert (Invincible) Kirkman’s Image Comics heroes: A middle-aged man who’s completely invulnerable and decidedly sardonic, who works for the government. I picked up the collection of the earlier stories, Old Soldier a while back: The stories are basically big “smash-’em-up” ones, which means they’re okay, but not deep. A nice occasional diversion, but not something that holds up over time. This new series I guess is supposed to be somewhat deeper, but the first issue looked like more of the same. Brit isn’t as appealing a lead character as Invincible, so I decided to pass on this one. (Often I decide not to buy a series which is going through a revival because, as I put it, “I’ve been on that train before and I don’t really want to get on again.”)
I also glanced at The Mice Templar #1, from Michael Avon Oeming, whose art on Powers is quite good, but I’ve never warmed to anything else he’s done. The art here actually made me cringe (take a look), so I took a pass on this one. I’m already reading Mouse Guard, and I think it’ll fill my need for rodent adventure stories on its own.